Thursday, 27 June 2013

SONY HDR-AS15 Action Cam

My second Canon Ixus 75 flooded again, the plethora of Go-Pros when diving and a recent trip to Scapa Flow seduced me into the world of video... As per usual, instead of following the herd I tried not to go to the default route of a go-pro 3 and choose the Sony action cam. The lense quality, sensor low light capabilities and price brought me to this device. It doesn't have same level of accessories as the go-pro but thats fine...

I also bought a spare battery, charger and underwater flat ported door from Sony.. You need a flat port for diving.. google it..
Purchased from John Lewis Stores £199, Amazon £20 and ebay £35 for the door pack.
Action Cam Replacement Doors — 2 Pack
Model number:  AKA-RD1

To  mount it, I used the provided flat surface clip on mount, tie wrapped to a goodman handle. This was in turn secured to me by a retractable lanyard clipped off on my right chest D ring.

Tie wraps (T&B) and not cable ties, are 2mm width for extra strength. Two each side of the mount.

Two tie wraps on each side, going through the holes in the goodman handle and the mount, crossing over to give extra strength.

Retractable lanyard.

To protect it when I jump in, I keep it in a Bowstone pocket on my belt and then remove once in the water. Its always clipped off to the right chest D-ring.. I thought I would need a bolt snap on it for extra security but i've not used it yet.

Its a bit fiddle to get out of the bag but it works. I think thats the bags fault!


As my first trip was going to be deep and dark ( like most UK dives tbh) I added a light to the goodman handle.

It was a bit of a lash up and the angle bracket that the light was attached to, seriously rusted... so the mark 2 is shown below. This uses, from ebay...

EPDM Rubber Lined P Clips Hose Pipe Clamp Cable Wiring Metal & Stainless Mikalor, 30mm stainless steel and a M4 X 12 A2 SOCKET CAP HEAD SCREW HEX ALLEN KEY BOLT A2 STAINLESS + Bolt.

I also updated the firmware to the latest version, this gave it more shooting modes but more importantly, introduced the underwater scene mode, essential! 

The biggest issue with this setup is the spot from the light shows up too much on the video, it needs to be diffused. I tried a plastic opaque top from somewhere in the kitchen but it doesn't diffuse enough..

I had the diffuser on a detachable bungey so that I could use it as a general torch but I never did remove it underwater....

This is a frame from the video with the light on full power with the diffuser. As the camera has no viewfinder, its a bit of suck it and see. The torch does have a number of power settings but this didn't seem to remove the spot, just reduce its intensity.

This was my torch shinning from the left ( wrist mounted) which is useful for lighting from the side, its like painting the light..

Here is a picture with mostly natural lighting ( beam from left is faint) , its probably a cloudy day, 26m depth... Its the Hull/Deck of the Dresden...

Next quest is for a better method of diffusing the light. Maybe remove the lense and just have the LED "bare" or another material in front...? Watch this space...

Some initial observations :

I thought the flat port was quite obtrusive and might cause a leak if it were knocked, but so far so good.. after a week of fairly abusive behaviour its ok.

In the 170 degree mode ( wide angle), I noticed I could see the flat port lense and a bit of image distortion at the periphery which annoyed me. I think you need to stick to 120 degrees underwater. Maybe blue water diving would be ok but in green/dark. I also found my primary light caught the edge of the port and caused a flare mark.

Battery life is quite impressive, I did 6 cold water dives without changing the battery, I only changed it after that to be safe at 40% ish. This is one thing I had heard about the GoPro 3 that sort of put me off.

Although I bought mine 3-4 months after the firmware upgrade, the one I purchased from the store was old firmware i.e. didn't have the underwater mode. Its not big deal but just don't get disappointed the mode is not there initially, download and install, easy.

Accessories, well there not as prevalent as the GoPro fittings but it does have a standard tripod mount which opens the door to quite a bit. I used the supplied quick release mounts to attach to the goodman handle.

GoPro humidity pads fit inside fine. In fact there seems to be quite a bit of space around the camera ( 2mm ;).

The wireless feature is a novelty, I don't think I will ever use it, there is a version without wifi which is cheaper so that might be a better bet. 

Price, i like, it cost me £199 from John Lewis and another £35 for the door pack.  Given the environment you takes these devices into and their propensity to flood ever so often, I'm not laying out mega bucks...

I've put some sample videos on my Youtube channel..



A new firmware version was released in June which I didn't notice, just loaded it and have yet to get it wet, new version is v3.0.0, previously I was running v2.0.0.


Just got back from a Red Sea liveaboard..... Northern Wrecks and Reefs... Dual light worked a treat, really brings out the colours on the reef... limited range mind, maybe 1m max in good conditions...but definitely worth it because just a little light is needed to turn from a dull blue into something else..

I'll try to put some of the wreck penetration videos up soon...

1 comment:

  1. Replacement O-rings for the underwater case can be purchased off ebay for £2.50 !

    As per the Sony cam forum, you need METRIC NITRILE RUBBER O-RINGS 2MM DIAMETER C/S ... 40mm ID....

    Tested ok on a recent trip...